Should you practice LESS? aka the joys of Kindle

Okay, technically this little booklet I’ve just published is:

‘Should you practise LESS to speak better Spanish?’ - but the stuff in it is every bit as relevant to Welsh.

It’s the write-up of some of the ideas that I’ve been testing, with input from people like Louis, which I think are going to change a lot of the ways in which we approach things with SSi - so although it’s only ten pages long, I think you might find it interesting.

It’s on for 99c at:

and for 77p at:

and it would be lovely to see some reviews - if we can get enough early momentum for it, we’re hoping it might help bring some new learners to our Spanish course…:smile:

Diolch yn fawr iawn in advance for any help/purchases/reviews with this…:smile:

Muy interesante Aran. (Kindle for PC seems to have stopped working for me, but I was able to read it on their Kindle for cloud thingy).

On the “less is more” sort of theme, you may be interested in the “Goldlist” method of vocabulary learning. It was invented by a man called David James, who sometimes goes by the name of Uncle Davey, and also Professor Huliganov(!) - he teaches Russian on Youtube under that name. Eccentric some might say, but I think he’s on to something with his Goldlist.

You might not approve in the sense that it is writing-based, but the things you might like about it is that it gives the learner control over when and how often he revisits vocabulary, and aims to minimise the repetitions.
It’s also very relaxed & low-stress.

The basic idea is that you have a large notebook (he likes to use good quality ones), and write down 25 target-language words in the top left-hand quadrant of a double page, followed by the base-language (e.g. English) meanings. (You can also use phrases).

You can optionally read the words out loud.

You then leave this list for a minimum of two weeks. That’s the only time restriction in the system, and his reason for setting it is to ensure that when you revisit the list, when you remember a word, it is from your long-term memory.

You can go on and write a new list if you want to on a new double-page, but you should take a break or do something else before doing so. He suggests not working more than 20 minutes at a time. (OK, so that’s another time restriction, sort of). You can do as many groups of 25 in a day as you like, provided you take sufficient break or change of activity in between, but common sense suggests not overdoing it.

You write the date next to each group of 25, and then leave them to consolidate in your brain for at least 2 weeks, but it can be as long as you like.

On the next iteration, you look down the list and discard those you think you know. Those you weren’t sure about go into a new list in another quadrant of the double page. Call this Level 1.
I think he suggests you can usually discard about one third, so 25 will reduce to about 16-17.

You can repeat this for as many groups as you wish, subject to the “rules” mentioned before.

Then at least 2 weeks after that, you go for another iteration, call this level 2, reducing the list by another third, say to 11-12.

Then at least 2 weeks after that, you complete the 4th quadrant with “level 3”, reducing by another third, say, to 7-8.

You can if you wish continue the iterations in another book, which can be smaller, with levels 4,5,6,7, but I think he says when you get to these levels, you pretty much know all the words… When you know all the words on your last list, that’s the “Gold List”, i.e. you know all the words you started off with, and you didn’t have to revisit a large percentage of them very many times.

I’ve probably forgotten some details, but that’s the basic principle.

Now, I’d heard about this method before I discovered SSiW, and used it with some success in German. However, when I started SSiW, bearing in mind the advice not to try reading and writing Welsh initially, I thought I should avoid GL for Welsh for the time being. However, now I hope I’ve reached the stage where reading and writing Welsh should not be a problem, maybe it’s time to give it another try.

Actually, I’ve often thought about trying to adapt the principle to using oral and aural methods, using a voice-recorder, but I haven’t yet worked out a good way to do this. (If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be interested to hear). With the experience of SSiW, I think it would want to be much more phrase-oriented, than single-word orientated, which the original Goldlist tends to be.

Here is “Uncle Davey” lecturing a group of Russian students of English on the GL method. Perhaps a flavour of his “eccentric genius” comes across. :slight_smile:

Hmm. That Gold List does look interesting. The actual methodology is here:

Jesus talk about using 10 words when one would do !
I gave up and found the you tube videos, if anyone is interested, he starts explaining the method 1/2 way through part 2 !

Think I might give it a try!

Thank you Mike - very useful. Also good to see that I’m not the only person who uses the word ‘iteration’!
The system, as you explain it, appears to be a variation of how I have tried to learn vocab, but using interval learning in a much more methodical way. Getting new vocab to stick in long-term memory is a big problem for me so I shall try this method.

Thanks again

That’s a very interesting link, Mike, diolch. I’m a bit wary about some of his more didactic points about how/when short term memory becomes long term memory - my reading of recent work on memory in neuroscience is that we’re still just testing the water in terms of any really detailed understanding of how the shift happens.

But the basic principle of extended interval training is very much the same kind of thing that we’re testing with intensive sessions followed by long gaps. He’s certainly wrong about the 20 minute maximum, though - I’ve watched people work for hours on end and be able to reactivate what they learnt in a matter of minutes months down the line…:smile:

Thank you very much to everyone who’s bought this little booklet, and particularly to our 2 noble reviewers (who make a world of difference to the rankings) - we’re currently sitting briefly at #1 in Foreign Languages on Kindle, which is unexpected and fantastic…:smile:

It would be a HUGE help if we could get some more reviews, if anyone who’s bought it has a couple of minutes to spare…:smile:

Goldlist: Well, he claims his ideas are based on research by Ebbinghaus, although some people say he’s misunderstood the latter. On the other hand, if it seems to work for him and people he has recommended it to, it doesn’t necessarily matter about the theory behind it.

The 20 minute restriction is probably being over-cautious, but he says it is because, unlike a physical muscle, we have no way of knowing when the subconscious mind is being overtaxed.

A more practical reason perhaps is that the more words you write down, the more distillations (that’s the word he uses to reduce the number from 25 to 17, then to 11, then to 8, or whatever) you will later have to make. And learning 25 words a day is pretty good going I think (if they really go in, with very little effort). Do that consistently for 6 weeks, and you’ve got over 1000.

He admits that this method only get words into your passive vocabulary, although he reckons this can be easily activated by being immersed in the language for 3 days. I don’t know about that, but it should certainly help, as Bootcampers know.

Now, one of the great things about SSiW is that basically most of what you learn goes straight into active vocabulary, I would say, and you are speaking from day 1. I think the idea of combining SSi to jumpstart your speaking, with extra vocabulary learning (even if only apparently passive vocabulary) is quite exciting.

Personally I would definitely not try to “gold list” words as I meet them on the SSi courses - the course itself does fine in getting them into your memory, but only additional words I encountered along the way, from radio, TV, books, newspapers, the web, etc. (I say that because in some of his videos, he suggests people gold list words they encounter on whatever course they are studying, but he’s talking by and large about traditional courses). I did actually tell him about SSiW on a posting to his blog one day, and he said it looked interesting.

I’m currently giving it a try with the extra vocabulary stuff you find in things like the mynediad course - there’s a lot of extra vocabulary in that course that doesn’t come up in the SSi Course (things like different names for jobs, things you can do on your holidays and other similarly basic things). Most of those are things that you’d only really need in your passive vocabulary anyway.

@Chris Parker: Thanks Chris. Hope it works well for you.

@Aran: sorry, didn’t mean to derail your thread.

Have now submitted a review, and would encourage others to do the same. :slight_smile:

Goldlist: Well, he claims his ideas are based on research by Ebbinghaus, although some people say he’s misunderstood the latter. On the other hand, if it seems to work for him and people he has recommended it to, it doesn’t necessarily matter about the theory behind it.

I agree that results are more important than theories - in fact, that’s why Cardiff University got in touch with us in the first place, because we were breaking theories…:wink: The reason I’m wary about it is because I suspect that stuff like ‘20 minutes’ and when you should revisit are ‘finger in the air’ stuff rather than neurologically fixed - but everything practical has to start with some finger in the air guesses.

Diolch yn fawr iawn for the review…:smile:

Interesting - to my surprise, the numbers on this little booklet have sometimes increased slightly month-on-month.

Launched in July, we got 61 sales - then August was 59 (which is a fair drop when you consider that the July sales all came in the last week, of course) - but then September was 78, which is a nice little blip.

As far as I can work out, October is back down to about 30, which seems a bit more expected. I wonder what the hike in September was about.

Anyway, if any of you have read this and not left a review, I’d be extremely glad if you would - because it has gathered a couple of grouchy reviews from people saying ‘Huh, he’s just trying to sell his Spanish course’ - well no kidding, there’s a voucher for a Spanish course on the cover illustration! - but giving no feedback at all on the actual ideas in the booklet.

So any reviews, good bad or indifferent, that actually focus on the ideas in the booklet would be particularly gratefully received :sunny: